AMD Fusion A8-3850 Platform Review - Benchmarking: APU vs. APU & CPU vs. CPU

Submitted by skipclarke on 24 November, 2011 - 04:41

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In my previous review of the AMD E-350, I ended up settling on some more mainstream gaming benchmarks. To draw a comparison between the APUs, and to show the growth in the line, I've re-run those test here (text quoted from the E-350 review)...


E-350 A8-3850
Title Quality 1600x900 1920x1080 1600x900 1920x1080
DeathSpank   18 16 65 67
Guild Wars High 54 45 157 187
Orcs Must Die! Low 30 25 106 85
Orcs Must Die! High 13 10 48 34
Torchlight Max 31 27 98 101

In addition to looking at games from our normal stable of benchmarks, I wanted to look at some popular indie titles that are available. I thought these smaller games at lower price points would match up well to the smaller price point and form factor of something like an ultra-portable. I wouldn't expect to play Crysis on this platform, but I do expect it perform well on games like DeathSpank and Torchlight. Since the below titles do not have built-in benchmarks, I set up short tests and recorded the results with FRAPS.

To test Deathspank, I played from the opening cinematic, up until the meeting the witch. I killed every monster and opened every chest along this short trek. There are no real graphical settings beyond V-sync, which I disabled.

I have to say I'm shocked at how Deathspank performed, especially in comparison to other titles in the "indie" category. The title's minimum requirements are an Intel P4 running at 1.7GHz, 1GB of RAM, and a video card with 256GB of RAM w/ Shader 2.0 and 24-bit depth buffer.

I had the GPU configured for 1GB of RAM, and it certainly meets the other requirements. Considering almost no impact to the fps moving from 720p to 1080p, I'm left to believe the CPU power is the roadblock. I would have thought a dual-core 1.6GHz processor would have exceeded the requirements of a single core P4 1.7GHz, but I guess not. I'm doubly surprised considering how well Orcs Must Die! plays, and it requires a 2.0 GHz dual-core processor.

While DeathSpank played horribly on the E-350, it played above 60fps on the A8-3850

Guild Wars
I realize that Guild Wars is not an "indie" title, but it has always been known as a very attractive game that ran well on a wide variety of hardware. I tested Guild Wars at 0xAA with the quality settings one step off of "max".

To test, I tried to get as controlled an environment as I could. I set up in Lion's Arch and ran from the last ship on the dock down the beach to the encampment there, and then back again. This provided lots of geometry to render in the docks and ships, along with a lot of horizon and water. Winding through the docks and the narrow passage that connects the dock to the beach required a lot of quick turns in rapid succession. This taxed the system in it's ability to quickly render new objects.

I am pleasantly surprised to say that the title runs quite well on the E-350. It surpasses 60fps at the native resolutions and is still well beyond 30fps at 1600x900 and 1920x1080. The performance was not entirely smooth and consistent, particularly in the "twisty-turny" areas in the docks. This brought the system down to single digits in a couple of spots, though things smoothed out once it recovered. Additionally, upping the settings to max or turning on AA provided a sizable hit to performance.

The A8-3850 far outstripped the E-350 posting frame rates well in excess of 120fps. This should easily translate to more than 60fps in even large battles.

Orcs Must Die!
To benchmark Orcs Must Die! I played the first level of the demo. I started FRAPS after I had gone through the initial setup of the spellbook and placing my first traps. I started FRAPS right as I released the horde of orcs, and stopped it as my character started his "winning" dance. Both settings tested were without MSAA enabled. The game offers Low and High settings with 0xMSAA, and then High with 2x, 4x and 8x MSAA.

Orcs Must Die! is a really fun title, that runs surprisingly well. The cartoony graphics and underground setting (no sky to render) surely help, but I was indeed surprised by how well this new title ran, especially considering the requirements of a 2.0GHz dual-core processor.

At low settings, the game well exceeds 60fps at 1080p. It even crosses 30fps on High settings on 1080p. All in all great performance for this title and this hardware.

To test Torchlight I created a new character and played the first dungeon until my character hit 2nd level. I started FRAPS upon actually starting the dungeon (not on the initial cutscene in the city), and stopped it when my character leveled. This took about 4.5 minutes of gameplay.

Torchlight isn't a graphical powerhouse, and even offers a "Netbook" mode. I tested at max settings, and the game looks and plays great on the E-350 platform. It blazed past 60fps at 1080p on my test. Having played the title a bit more, I have encountered situations which require more graphical power. While I would probably consider the E-350 to be underpowered at max settings, I see the A8-3850 blazing through.


I also wanted to take a look at the A8-3850 as a platform from which to built. My solid reference point is my Intel i7-920. I decided to test at 1080p. This would put more reliance on the CPU (as the GPU should be more than powerful enough), and be more in line with actual usage of this platform.

By and large the A8-3850 performs are par with the i7-920. In some instances the Intel chip is a few fps ahead, and in some instances the APU is a few fps ahead. The only real case with a decisive difference is Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War II. In this instance the Intel chip comes it at 55fps vs. the 45fps of the AMD APU.



Obviously the APU is underpowered "clock for clock". Being a quad-core CPU, it should best the Intel i7-920 by 10%, "all things being equal". This obviously isn't the case, so this proves the inherent superiority of the Intel CPU architecture. However, things are less clear when we look at the "bang for the buck". The i7-920 is no longer readily available, but it was released with a price of $284. It's closest current companion (at the time of this writing) is probably the Core i7-870 or the Core i7-950. The i7-870 is available for about $285 and is a quad-core at 2.93GHz. The i7-950 is about $259 and is a quad-core at 3.07GHz.

I would expect both of these chips to best the A8-3850 by 10% - 15% (given their clock speed improvement over the i7-920). However, the A8-3850 retails for $135 and would provide a very satisfactory experience for less than half the price of the Intel chip. Without a doubt the Intel chip would perform better, but the price-performance calculation swings to the AMD offering.

The Intel i5-760 may provide a closer comparison, but I don't have one to test. It retails for $200 and is a quad-core 2.8GHz chip. In the end, the A8-3850 provides a very solid platform for only $135 retail.